min read

Let's Talk Enablement. Software Enablement with Kate Neal.

Learn why NRR has become the gold standard metric for B2B SaaS.

Less than 10 min read with plenty of insights! Let's get to know Kate Neal a little better.

Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you work? What’s your role? And how long have you been in the industry?

I'm currently serving as the Director of Customer Success at Staircase AI, a seed stage startup bringing a new generation of Customer Success tech to the stack. Staircase is the 4th SaaS startup I've joined from the ground floor and built out the CS function and team from scratch. I started in Customer Success back in 2011 and it's been amazing to both watch and participate in the evolution of a career I've come to love so much.

Let’s dive in, tell us how you go about driving engagement in your software?

This is always the challenge in B2B SaaS! There are many strategies one can employ but at the end of the day, it all boils down to the value your customers are receiving from your product. More value = more usage. So, before you start to enact strategies to drive usage, I'd encourage folks to clearly define the value that your already successful customers are deriving. As well as the journey they take through your product to gain that value. Identify sticking points or areas of friction and work to resolve/overcome those. The last thing you want to do is drive usage to half baked features. People are very low on attention and patience in today's world so, oftentimes, you only have one or two chances to make the right impact and keep them coming back for more.

Once you get there, you can start to drive engagement. Customer education is a huge piece of this endeavor. Make sure you provide your customers with a lot of opportunities to learn best practices and how to be successful with your product. Things like a knowledge base, FAQs, how-to videos and articles, recurring meetings, blogs, webinars, social media posts, podcasts, etc. are all avenues you can leverage to help educate your customers. Another powerful tool can be an in-app walkthrough or wizard. Helping to ensure your customers are pointed in the right direction when they log in.

As a final comment, I'd encourage CSMs to ensure they are always discussing and reiterating that value with their clients. Better yet, don't tell your customers about the value, but ask for and listen to their perception of that value. This can be a really eye opening exercise and also helps to ensure your customers are truly feeling the benefits. The more you can connect your product to real business outcomes for your customers the better. Your customers don't care for metrics about # of logins or time in the platform (those are important internal metrics), they care about how that interaction with your product led to outcomes that met or exceeded their goals and OKRs. Tying this all together is a key function of the CS team.

How do you think an organization can encourage a knowledge sharing culture?

I'm a process person so that's how I approach this topic. If you want to create a culture of sharing knowledge internally, you need to create the space for that to happen. So using meetings like an all-hands or a weekly team meeting to discuss learnings from the field, best practices, and successes and failures help to facilitate a culture of sharing. As well as creating tools, documentation, etc. to capture and spread that knowledge.

In addition, you want to create the safety for your team to try new things, make mistakes, and learn and grow from them. So making sure they aren't shamed or put on the spot if they tried something that didn't work out will go a long way.  

What are the top 3 things that you would like to see being impacted by a software enablement methodology/platform?

Customer Outcomes/Value - as I mentioned above, the more value clients receive, the more they will engage with your product and company. Focusing on those outcomes will naturally increase those internal usage metrics like logins and time in app. The key is focusing on the client and their success, not those internal metrics. Tying your product to their business success is a surefire way to ensure stickiness and win the renewal without a struggle.

Viral Growth - Are we growing our user base within their organization? And, are we growing our customer base because our customer advocates recommend us to their peers? Both of these are indicators of true product success.

Trusted Advisors - Coupling a strong product with real results and the power of human interaction and relationship building is the formula needed to move your company from a product/service provider, to a trusted business advisor and consultant. Are your customers coming to you with their business problems that may even stretch beyond what your product does today? If they are, this is a sign that you have earned a seat at their strategic table by providing continuous value, outcomes, and partnership.

What measurements and KPIs do you use today to define your Software Engagement goals?

NRR has become the gold standard metric for B2B SaaS. But looking specifically at usage (which is only a part of the picture), I would focus on the number of active users, time they spend in the product, how many support tickets they open due to product friction, and how many new users are being added each week. I also suggest setting benchmarks for each of those areas across your customer base so that you can begin to understand what does good usage look like? Is a client spending an hour in the platform a good sign, or a sign that they are running into problems? Knowing these nuances can help you ensure you are tracking the right metrics and that you know what success for each of those looks like.

Personal Question to close the talk. Since we know sharing the Knowhow is a team effort and we are big sports fans. What is your most memorable team sports moment?

Oh no! I'm sorry to say I will fail at this question as I am not a sports ball person! But I can share a personal accomplishment of mine. A few years ago, I went to the beach (Oregon coast) and sat for a couple of hours watching the surfers. I caught a bug to become a surfer. The problem? I didn't even know how to swim! So, in 6 months time, I got over my fear of water, taught myself how to swim (thanks, Terry Laughlin!), and then, how to surf. The feeling of accomplishment and unbridled joy I got the first time I caught a wave is something I will never forget.

If someone wants to connect with you, what’s the best way to do it? Social/Email etc?

LinkedIn is the best place to reach me. I love to connect with new people and share ideas.